From crop loan and land revenue waivers to bonus payments and free crop storage, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh announced a slew of sops on Monday targeting farmers and rural voters ahead of assembly elections later this year.
While Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara seeks to recover from the recent disastrous bypoll where the BJP lost two Lok Sabha seats and an assembly seat to the Congress, MP’s three-time CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan aims to mitigate three-time anti-incumbency and the set-back from the recently concluded civic polls in the state, where the BJP lost ground.
Raje, presenting the last state budget before elections, on Monday announced a one-time crop loan waiver for small and marginal farmers up to Rs 50,000 in the overdue and outstanding categories of short-term loans from cooperative banks. The waiver is expected to cost the state exchequer Rs 8,000 crore.
“Small and marginal farmers are among the most vulnerable groups in our society. We have taken a significant decision to waive off short-term farm loans. More than 20 lakh farmers in the state will benefit from this decision,” said Raje in the Rajasthan Assembly.
She also said the state would constitute a farmers debt relief commission through which farmers will be able to get relief on merit basis after presenting their case to the commission. Raje also announced the exemption of land revenue which she said would benefit at least 40 lakh farmers in Rajasthan.
“Our aim is to touch more and more people from those categories who are deprived and need our support. Most importantly, we made this budget after keeping in mind the fact that this money is the property of the public and we have been entrusted for its safekeeping and we have to make the best use of it so that it is distributed in such a way that the public can get most benefits from it,” said Raje.
In MP, while addressing a Kisan Mahasammelan at Jamboree Maidan in Bhopal, Chouhan announced his government was bringing back a bonus paid to farmers over the minimum support price (MSP) and also said he would waive interest on loans.
Chouhan brought back the bonus, which the Centre had asked states to discontinue citing distorting of market rates, under a new name – Mukhyamantri Krishi Utpadakta Protsahan Yojana. He said farmers would be paid Rs 200 bonus on every quintal sold to the government in the last rabi season. MP procured more than 67.25 lakh MT wheat. He said paddy growers will also get benefit from bonus.
According to Chouhan, wheat growers would be given Rs 265 over and above the MSP of 1,735 per quintal in the coming season to ensure that the farmers get Rs 2,000 per quintal. “We will not be found wanting, we will create history,’’ he said to a rousing cheer from farmers. Chouhan did not spell out the burden of the new sop on the exchequer but said his government would do everything to ensure remunerative prices to farmers.
“This is not a bonus,” Chouhan said while making the announcement under a different name and extending the scheme to paddy. Unlike wheat, MP’s share in paddy procurement is not significant. Chouhan said the state would also create production records. “Kisan bheek nahi mangta, paseene ki kimat denge (a farmer does not want alms, we will compensate his hard labour),” he said.
The CM announced more changes in the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (BBY), a scheme that seeks to provide a cushion to farmers when prices fall below the MSP in mandis. Under the modified scheme, farmers will be able to store their crops in licensed warehouses up to four months and the government bears the rent.
To meet their immediate cash requirement, farmers will be able to take loans of up to 25 per cent of the produce they store and the government will pay the interest to banks. Chouhan also announced a scheme to bring back defaulters under the credit net while simultaneously waiving off pending interest dues. Farmers will be given a chance to pay the capital in two instalments, and after payment of the first will be eligible for loans at zero per cent interest. He said the waiver would cost the exchequer Rs 2600 crore.
Referring to a hail storm on Sunday in MP, Chouhan said, “Neither will I cry nor let you cry. We will pull through. Crises like these test leadership and I won’t let you down.’’